nirvikṛtaṃ sarvaśaktam adu niṣkarmam ।
nirvṛtidaṃ patrasumajalārpakariṃgam ॥
The ātmā, though all-pervading,
is immutable, and though omnipotent, is actionless.
It is without a rival, and is the same everywhere.
It yields supreme bliss to even those offering a leaf, a flower or water.
The objects of the world function because of Brahma. Because of this, we confuse those objects for Brahma. We worship the glamour of the world while in fact, it is Brahma that should be worshipped. This is a mistake indeed. One should always remember that the world is a modification of Brahma-consciousness and that Brahma is beyond all the objects of the world.
Bhagavān assures us that he will take up the responsibility of the entire well-being of whoever is completely dependent on him. What more assurance does one need?
Bhagavān has affirmed that all devotion with śraddhā reaches him and that he is propitious to those devoted to him. If all worldly actions such as taking in food and giving dāna are performed as offerings to ŚrīKṛsṇa, the jīva attains the Supreme Goal. We see the heart of the Gītā-teaching in this chapter.
Chapter 9 Rāja-vidyā-rāja-guhya-yoga or Brahma-jagat-sambandha-yoga
(The Yoga of the Relationship between Brahman and the World)
In the previous chapter, after considering seven or eight questions such as “kiṃ tadbrahma” (What is Brahman?), “adhibhūtam kim?” (What is adhibhūta) and what a prāṇī (being) is, Bhagavān taught that OM (praṇava), which denotes the entire collection of Jagat (world), Jīva and Iśvara, has to be mentally meditated upon. Now will be elucidated the relationship between Brahma and Prakṛti - which is also the relationship between Īśvara and the world.
This chapter covers the following topics:
- The omnipresence of Brahma
- The subservience of the world to Prakṛti
- The two-fold nature of Prakṛti
- The attainability of Iśvara
- The worldly aspect of Dharma
- Surrender to Bhagavān
idaṁ tu te guhyatamaṁ pravakṣyāmy-anasūyave |
jñānaṁ vijñāna-sahitaṁ yaj-jñātvā mokṣyase’śubhāt ||
The chapter begins with the above verse. The topic that Bhagavān is about to tell us is the greatest secret! A mystery! What is that secret? A marketing trick or a profit-minded manoeuvre or a scheme for greater fame? This strategy is not for any worldly attainment but pertains only to the ātmā. Therefore, only the eligible will be instructed here. If the ineligible are instructed in this matter, there is a chance of misunderstanding or misuse or trivialisation - all of which is harmful to the world. This verse thus is an exhortation to share this secret only after considering the student’s worthiness.
Don't think of this secret as Brāhmaṇa obscurantism. It is well known that our government limits the sales of drugs that are mixed with mercury, sulphur, lead or mandate a prescription for those medicines that can have significant side-effects upon accidental consumption. Such medicines or prescription drugs carry labels with warnings like ‘poison’ or ‘for prescription use only’ or ‘overdose can cause injury.’ On the other hand, home remedies such as ginger, pepper, and cumin can be used as medicine by almost anyone. Even a healthy person is not adversely affected by their consumption. However, those medicines explicitly labelled are meant only for patients and not for general consumption. It is dangerous for others to consume such drugs. Therefore the pharmacist is legally bound to sell such drugs only when accompanied by a prescription and only to those for whom the drug has been prescribed.
Similar is the rule regarding the teaching of the Vedas, śāstras, and the Gītā. They have to be imparted only after due discernment about the fitness of the taught. These are not like commercial goods that are sold to the general public. These words of Matthew Arnold are worth remembering here –
Some secrets may the poet tell,
For the world loves new ways;
To tell too deep ones is not well—
It knows not what he says.
Moreover, this is “jñānaṁ vijñānasahitam” (knowledge with realisation) – which is essentially experiential and not bookish learning. The theoretical understanding gained through external sources of knowledge such as teachers and śāstras is denoted as jñāna. To this should be added vijñāna – the experiential realisation of jñāna through vichāra. Vichāra is the analysis of experience; a practical application of theory. Bhagavān is now all set to teach the principle that is in agreement with both theory and experience.
This instruction is deemed ‘Rāja-vidyā’ (the Royal Science) which means that it is the king of all vidyās. Just as the King’s power enables all his subjects employed in different posts to enjoy proportionate benefits during the discharge of their duties, this rāja-vidyā enables assignment of the right values and positions of other vidyās. Thus this knowledge of reality ought to be at the head of all other vidyās.
rāja-vidyā rāja-guhyaṁ pavitram-idam-uttamam |
pratyakṣāvagamaṁ dharmyaṁ susukhaṁ kartum-avyayam ||
Rāja-vidyā is also fittingly called Rāja-yoga as it can be known through direct experience, is consistent with dharma, is easily performed, does not cause harm, is imperishable, and is easy to perform. Haṭha-yoga has opposite characteristics to Rāja-yoga. While Haṭha-yoga is a teacher that brings the fear of punishment to students, Rāja-yoga is a gentle and tactful teacher.
What then is the gist of this charming vidyā?
mayā tatam-idaṁ sarvaṁ jagad-avyakta-mūrtinā |
mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni na cāhaṁ teṣv-avasthitaḥ ||
na ca mat-sthāni bhūtāni paśya me yogam-aiśvaram |
bhūtabhṛn-na ca bhūtastho mamātmā bhūta-bhāvanaḥ ||
(Mayā) By me (Brahma), (avyaktamūrtinā) who has no external characteristics such as form and quality, (jagat idam sarvam) all this world (tatam) is pervaded.
(Through one perspective) all beings reside in me, I am not in them.
(Another perspective) The world’s beings really do not reside in me. See my (Brahma’s) divine and wondrous yoga in the aspect of Īśvara. It is Brahma-consciousness that is the origin and sustenance of this multitude of beings. But Brahma itself is not in them.
This is a complicated statement. It needs to be patiently reflected upon.
The inquiry here is about existence. In Samskṛtam, existence is known as astitva. The same is sat + tā (sattā) or sattva. The subject of existence, termed ontology, is an important aspect of Western philosophy. What are some questions about existence?
- A certain thing might exist and still not be perceived by anyone.
- Even if it is perceived, it might be perceived as something else.
- Even if it exists, it might be attached to something else like a shadow.
- It might be something that only the mind perceives but not the eye.
- It might exist during one moment and not exist in the next.
Many doubts can thus arise about existence. Does our world really exist? Or is it merely an appearance? Is not appearance a level of existence? Should not an appearance have some kind of substratum? What might that be? Such are the questions.
Independent existence (svatantra-sattā) is something that exists without requiring anything else to exist as a substratum or for protection. It existed before, exists now, and will continue to exist later. It cannot be repudiated, modified, or destroyed in any place or time. Such is the existence of Brahma; completely independent.
When a thing’s existence requires something else to be present, the thing is said to have a dependent existence (adhīna-sattā). The reflection in a mirror is an example. An object's reflection is seen as long as the object stays in front of the mirror and disappears when the object is moved. We have already come across the illustration of the glass and the red rose. As long as the rose is near the glass, the glass appears red. No red glass without the red rose. Shadows too are in this category. They require another solid body for them to be seen. The shadow is a projection of the object. Brahma is existence itself, while the world is an appearance. The shadow is seen as long as the object is present. Once the object is gone, the shadow goes as well. But the object itself is not a shadow. It has an independent existence while the shadow has a dependent existence. Brahma has an independent existence; the world is like its shadow and hence has a dependent existence. Let us return to the treatise keeping this in mind.
To be continued...
The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.